Guide to Japanese Kitchen Appliances

This will be periodically updated to reflect comments and questions. All opinions are my own–I don’t get paid by any brands or Amazon to promote their goods.

“Large” Kitchen Appliances

For the sake of comparison, I’ll be discussing my experiences living in the US and in Japan. In the US, kitchen devices that typically come with an apartment/house include a stove (oven and burners) and a refrigerator. In Japan, unless you are inheriting your apartment as a JET or live in a furnished apartment like Leo Palace, you typically have to buy your own refrigerator and gas range, though some apartments do come with the latter installed into the kitchen.

The Gas Range (gasu renji, ガスレンジ)

The gas range may be installed into the kitchen, but many are purchased separately and plug into the apartment’s gas outlet. I’ve had both setups. Most come with a fish griller/toaster installed into the range, and the range may have 1-3 burners. I had never cooked with gas before moving to Japan, but I really like it. The only real difference is the portability and the average number of burners.

The Oven Range (ôbun renji, オーブンレンジ)

The oven range is a small microwave-oven device, which can be as simple as a toaster oven or as fancy as an oven-microwave-grill with special settings for warming up drinks and steaming food. The biggest difference is the size.

To someone used to full-sized ovens, the oven range has both disadvantages and advantages. For example, the smaller size of the oven range means that cooking a lot of food (layer cakes, cookies) or a large item of food (quick bread, turkey) can be difficult. The heat source is usually on one side, so you may have to rotate food to cook evenly, if it works at all.

However, the oven range has some advantages. It’s more eco-friendly, using less power to heat a smaller space, which also means it preheats quickly. Baking in the summer still isn’t fun, but it exudes less heat than a full-sized oven. Also, having to preset the cooking time means that  you’ll never accidentally leave the oven on while you’re at work.

Refrigerator (reizôko, 冷蔵庫)

Japanese refrigerators tend to resemble dorm fridges. People tend to shop for food more often than once a week and grocery stores are often (not always!) more accessible, especially in the city. (In the countryside, it really depends. When I lived in the country, I could easily walk to two grocery stores and bike to a supermarket and a co-op. In other towns, accessibility can be more limited.) I  live and work within walking distance of several supermarkets, Kanazawa’s Omicho Market, and a couple gourmet stores, so I doing extra shopping has not been a problem for me. I did buy a bigger refrigerator from a recycle shop when I moved to the city, but it is still very small by US standards.

Dishwashers (shoki araiki, 食器洗い機)

These tend to be small table-top devices. While having a dishwasher installed in your home can be a great power- and time-saving device, it hasn’t caught on here. I do know some people who have them, but the ones for sale in my local home-goods store were about the size of a microwave. If you have a Japanese dishwasher, could you please leave me a comment about its size and usefulness?

Of note: in-sink garbage disposals do not exist in Japan as far as I can tell. In your sink, you’ll use drain nets to catch and disposal of food waste. There are some home compost bins available through city garbage services if you have space.

Kitchen Appliances

The Basics

Electric Water Pot (dendô potto, 電動ポット)

Portable and convenient for heating water for coffee or tea. These are great in the winter since they retain heat much longer than a stove kettle would. Some more expensive models have temperature settings, so if you are particular about using the right temperature of water to make tea or coffee, it may be worth the investment. If you prefer an electric kettle, look for denki kettoru (電気ケットル).

Availability: any home-goods or electronic store, recycle shop, Amazon.co.jp/online. This are ubiquitous in homes and offices.

Rice Cooker (suihanki, 炊飯器)

A staple of the Japanese home. Not just for white rice: use them for brown rice, okayu (rice porridge), rice meals, or even cakes. There are whole cookbooks of rice-cooker recipes.

Availability: any home-goods or electronics store, recycle shop, Amazon.co.jp/online. Every Japanese home has one.

French Press (furenchi puresu, フレンチプレス)

The easiest way to make coffee, and you don’t have to worry about reading the instructions in Japanese or buying filters. Clean-up is easy since you have to have drain nets in your sink anyway. (In the US, you’d use the garbage disposal.)

Available in some coffee shops and gourmet stores, but easy to find online. I’ve gotten mine from Kaldi Coffee and from Amazon.co.jp.

Coffee Maker (kôhî mêkâ, コーヒーメーカー)

Tea Pot (chabin, 茶瓶; yakan, ヤカン)

Whether it’s one cup or four, you’ll have plenty of choices for size, style, and price. Every Japanese home and office have one (or two…).

Availability: nearly every store has these: 100-yen shops, supermarkets, department stores, home-good stores, tourist shops with ceramics, and online shopping. Typically in ceramic but also available in glass or metal, too.

For the Foodie

With limited counter-space and sometimes limited funds, it’s good to know your cooking style well enough to know what appliances are worth the investment.

Coffee Grinder/Coffee Mill (kôhî guraindâ, コーヒー・グラインダー;kôhî miru, コーヒー・ミル)

I used to have a grinder attachment for my blender, but when I bought a nicer blender, I decided to get a separate grinder. Coffee shops will be happy to grind your coffee, and you can purchase ground coffee (both local blends and national) relatively easily, but I like to grind my own, and my mill is small, portable, and requires no electricity. Prices vary a lot, but the model I’ve linked is very affordable, easy to clean, and works like a dream.

Availability: some models are easy to find in home goods and electronics; fancy models are available at coffee shops. The best selection is online–I recommend amazon.co.jp.

Food Processor (fûdo purosessa, フードプロセッサ)

If I had to choose the most important non-essential appliance in my kitchen, it would be the food processor. I balked at the price for years and got a blender instead, but when I became heir to the Kanazawa Foodies’ Food Processor™, it become my favorite appliance in an instant. My blenders were never good for making hummus or veggie burgers, and the food processor also lets me grate carrots and ginger and combine ingredients for breads and scones with ease. If I could go back and do it all again, I would have invested in the processor and skipped the blender.

Availability: home-goods and electronics; online.

Immersion Blender (hando burendâ, ハンドブレンダー)

If you need a blender to make soups or process other liquids, consider the compact immersion blender. Several of my friends swear by these. In retrospect, I should have gotten one, too.

Availability: home-goods and electronics; online.

Blender (mikisâ, ミキサー)

I mainly use my blender for soups and the occasional smoothie.  (n.b. Frozen blueberries, etc. are only available in some stores in Kanazawa. I froze my own bananas and apples, but the high cost and low yield of other fruit made me feel bad about using them in smoothies.) In retrospect, getting a food processor and an immersion blender would have been the best for my cooking style.

Availability: home-goods and electronics; online.

Hand-Mixer (hando mikisâ, ハンドミキサー)

I bought a hand-mixer to make egg nog and then never did. However, it was indispensable in my birthday-cake spree in 2013. A good item to have if you are a baker.

Availability: home-goods and electronics stores; online.

Slow Cooker (surô kukkâ, スロークッカー)

I didn’t think you could buy these easily, but I have seen them at Yamada Denki and there are a ton of them online. A rice cooker can do some of the work of a slow cooker, but if you are a serious slow-cooker chef, you can buy them here.

Availability: some home-goods and electronics stores; online.

Bread Maker (hômu bêkarî, ホームベーカリー)

This is something I didn’t get because it seemed superfluous. In the US, a good bread paddle attachment and an oven do the job just fine, but in Japan, given the small size of the oven range and the lack of fancy stand mixers, this would have been a good investment. Two of my friends love theirs. Also, you get bigger loaves that would be good for making sandwiches.

Availability: home-goods and electronics stores; online.

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